DUBLIN, Ohio: Matt Kuchar fired a two-under par 70 to seize a two-stroke lead over fellow Americans Kevin Chappell and Kyle Stanley after the third round of the $6.2 million US PGA Memorial tournament.
In a round where world number one Tiger Woods struggled to a 79 to stand 16 strokes off the pace and second-ranked Rory McIlroy settled for a 75 and stood 14 strokes back, Kuchar offset back-nine stumbles with long birdie putts.
Kuchar birdied the par-3 fourth and par-5 seventh but closed the front nine with a bogey. He responded with a 19-foot birdie putt at the par-4 10th, then sandwiched two birdies between bogeys at the par-3 12th and par-5 15th.
Kuchar dropped an 11-foot birdie at the par-4 13th and followed by sinking a 17-foot birdie putt at the par-4 14th at the Muirfield Village layout where 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus is the tournament host.
After 54 holes, Kuchar was on eight-under 208 with Stanley and Chappell both on 210. Stanley stumbled to a 73 on Saturday while Chappell fired a 68.
“I played some steady golf. I got the wind figured out as best as possible and I’m driving it well,” Kuchar said. “You can play some moderately aggressive golf out there.”
Woods began on the back nine and had a horror-show start with double bogeys at the 12th and 15th holes, a triple bogey at 18 plus a bogey at the 17th. After birdies at the first and second and another at the fifth, he closed with bogeys at the sixth and ninth.
“It was a rough day. It was tough out there from beginning to end,” Woods said through a PGA Tour media official.
The 44 Woods posted on his opening nine was the highest nine-hole score of his PGA Tour career by a stroke, while his 79 matched the second-highest score of his pro career.
“We didn’t hit that many bad shots starting out the day and the next thing you know, we are quite a few over par,” Woods said. “It was a tough day. I tried to fight back on the back nine. It just didn’t quite materialize.”
McIlroy fared little better, starting with a bogey at the 10th that he answered with a birdie at the 12th. He made a bogey at the first, a double bogey at the third and a bogey at the eighth before closing with a birdie.
England’s Justin Rose, Australian Mike Jones and Bill Haas, the American who led after the second round but sputtered to a 76 in the third, shared fourth on 211.
Reigning Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, past Masters winner Charl Schwartzel and Americans Scott Piercy and J.J. Henry shared seventh on 212 with another past Masters champion, Bubba Watson, among a trio on 213.
Chappell birdied three holes in a row starting at the par-5 fifth and answered his lone bogey at the par-5 11th with birdies at 13 and 15.
Stanley had five bogeys, two on par-3 holes, but took advantage of the par-5 holes with birdies at the fifth and 15th and an eagle at the 11th after putting his second shot only two feet from the cup.